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A Lesson in Clean-Air Plants

As a recent first-time home buyer, I’ve learned a lot of things that I did not know six months ago. From the actual home buying process to moving and settling in, it has been a crash course. Most recently, I covered a chapter in household plants.

My husband and I moved from a 750 sq. ft. apartment to a tri-level three bedroom house, so needless to say, we’ve started the search for furniture. Oddly enough however, the first items on our “to purchase” list were plants – who needs a couch, anyway? Now I must say, I have only owned one or two plants in my lifetime. I’ve always appreciated plants, especially the kind I can eat, but I’ve never really explored owning them until I purchased a home.

With the IMA’s Greenhouse Shop full of plants from which to choose, I knew where I wanted to shop, but had no idea what to buy.  No idea. One of the great things about working at the IMA is that each department is a resource, full of knowledge across a wide-range of topics, especially when it comes to horticulture. Thankfully, my green-thumbed colleague Lynne Habig agreed to some hand holding and plant teaching. When she started talking about all of the different types of greenery, she said something that really sparked my interest: clean-air plants.

And with that, my plant lesson was quickly interrupted by an impromptu guest-lecture on household pollutants. Pardon my ignorance, but this was the first I had heard of sick building syndrome. As Lynne broke it down for me, our indoor environments are full of pollutants (trichloroethylene, formaldehyde, benzene, etc.) that are espoused from common household items like electronics, adhesives, paints, cleaning products, and fabrics (yikes!). These chemicals are linked to everything from eye irritation and dizziness to liver carcinogens and even throat cancer. Sick building syndrome occurs when small spaces are tightly concealed in an effort to save energy, but in turn creates a harmful space where these pollutants can gather.

So what does all of this have to do with plants? For many years, NASA conducted a study on ways to purify the air both on earth and in space habitats which are perhaps the most contained work environments. The study found that common household plants are actually the best crime fighters for such pollutants.

I was sold. I wanted to fill my house with plants, but now I needed to fill it with clean-air plants. According to the study, the top plants found most effective in decreasing the amount of air-pollutants include:

  • Bamboo Palm – Chamaedorea Seifritzii
  • Chinese Evergreen – Aglaonema Modestum
  • English Ivy- Hedera helix
  • Gerbera Daisy- Gerbera Jamesonii
  • Janet Craig – Dracaena ‘Janet Craig
  • Marginata – Dracaena Marginata
  • Mass cane/Corn Plant - Dracaena Massangeana
  • Mother-in-Law’s Tongue Sansevieria Laurentii
  • Pot Mum – Chrysantheium morifolium
  • Peace Lily - Spathiphyllum

With Lynne’s continued guidance, I picked out a selection from the Greenhouse Shop that fit the clean-air profile and my personal tastes: English Ivy, Mother-in-Law’s Tongue, Golden Pothos, Peace Lily, Spider Plant, and Dracaena, all pictured below.

And while they might not bestow “clean-air” – I couldn’t pass up a few other nice looking gems.
For those of you now wanting to purify your own air, don’t worry, it won’t break your bank. The plants purchased range from only $3.95 – $7.95. If you’re still not sold, check out the video below of our 2011 Indianapolis Island resident Katherine Ball talking about her use of clean-air plants.

Filed under: Greenhouse, Horticulture

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